How Gesture Recognition Can Change the Face of Technology

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Don’t you hate it when the remote is all the way over there? Don’t you wish you had telekinetic abilities to make your device work without getting up? While we have yet to harness telekinetic powers, you can get pretty close with gesture recognition technology.

What is Gesture Recognition?

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Gesture recognition technology is a simple concept that involves using body motions to control certain devices, much like you’ve seen on futuristic movies like Ender’s Game, Minority Report, or Iron Man. These devices usually use cameras to read body motion–usually hand signals–and translate that into a response. Where you could once clap to turn the lights on and off, this concept allows you to use your hands–or even facial expressions–to command your TV, phone, household appliances, and more.

Where Are We at With Gesture Recognition?

You’ve already seen it on commercials, or maybe you already have a compatible device. Someone is sitting in front of a TV, and instead of using a remote, they use hand signals to select videos, change channels, and perform other commands. And what about the Kinect, which allows you to play games and send commands to your computer without the need for a controller? There is also sign-language recognition software designed to help the physically impaired connect with computers.

You can also find this with programs like XTouch, an app that allows you to transform external surfaces into a touchscreen. This makes it easy for cooks to scroll on their iPad without getting food all over the screen. It even has the potential to expand the touchscreen surface so more people can gather around the device to play multi-player games. The program works by recognizing the sound coming off the table and using those positions to understand the commands.

Where Are We Headed?

While gesture recognition is already available today and not so much a distant future revolution, we still have a long way to go. Today, this technology is pretty limited to high-power consuming devices. However, with this knowledge in our hands, the touchscreen may someday go completely obsolete.

We’ll be able to control our phones from our pockets (UW researchers are already working on this one!). Someday, we might be able to control things like alarms, thermostats, appliances, and other devices from any room in the house just by using hand gestures. Eventually, we won’t need keyboards, computer mice, remotes, and other accessories.

How Will This Impact Us?

Today, gesture recognition is still a bit of a novelty, but it poses many advantages for the future. Much like we’re already using it in medicine with sign-language recognition programs, it could become a more vital tool in the future, effectively leading to a more efficient society. For example, doctors may begin using robotic nurses that can recognize hand gestures, which will reduce surgery times, says Purdue. As in the hospital, it will also eliminate some of the hassle of day-to-day life, saving time and leading to higher productivity levels.

Gesture recognition is of great interest to many industries. While it’s not as widespread now, we may see it become an integral part of our lives–at work and at home–in the future.

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